M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Five of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2014 and going through September 30, 2015. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on November 28, 2014. Available On Demand, digital download, and Blu-ray/DVD! Also streaming on Amazon Prime!
THE BABADOOK (2014)
Directed by Jennifer Kent
Written by Jennifer Kent
Starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Tim Purcell, Tiffany Lyndall-Knight, Hayley McElhinney, Cathy Adamek, Benjamin Winspear, Barbara West, Craig Behenna, Terence Crawford
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Essie Davis plays a worn-down mother named Amelia who lost her husband the day her only child Samuel (Noah Wiseman) was born. Now a rambunctious child of 10, Samuel brings weapons to school, spastically keeps his mother awake all night, and seems to be having serious ADHD problems. All of this wears heavily on the beleaguered orderly who tries to be a good mother despite it all. She keeps her chin up, hoping someday to find Mr. Right to make her life a little easier. After a particularly spastic day of being kicked out of school and terrorizing his cousins, Samuel finds a pop-up book called MR. BABADOOK and asks his mom to read it to him for bedtime. But reading this mysterious book causes all sorts of trouble for Amelia, beginning with nightmares and developing into outright paranoia and suspicion that the monster in the gloomy little book might actually be real.
If this were a major blockbuster big time Hollywood production, the Babadook would most definitely be real and there would be CG chases through endless corridors and dreamscapes with some kind of magic totem scaring it away right at the last moment before the credits. But THE BABADOOK is not a major blockbuster big time Hollywood production and because of that, it is more unclear as to whether the Babadook is real or the product of an unwell and worn-down mind. Writer/director Jennifer Kent does a fantastic job of leaving things deliciously ambiguous, never really explaining who wrote the seemingly haunted children’s book or what the Babadook really is. In doing so, she has crafted a story that can be absorbed and enjoyed on a multitude of levels. It is as much a monster on the loose story as it is a ghost story as it is a story of a descent into madness. It’s actually all of that and a little more and a little less depending on which way you want to look at it, making it enjoyable on many viewings (and I plan on watching this one and rewatching it considering each angle). Because of this, more so than your run of the mill horror film, the film proves to be an utterly rich experience, making it a film you want to talk about immediately after viewing it.
Samuel is indeed a handful and hats off to little Noah Wiseman for being such a spastic little shit. As a person who works with this type of kid every day at my day job as a licensed therapist in a residential home for boys and girls, I know how exhausting a child such as this can be. Seeing Wiseman writhe around like he’s got ten monkeys under his skin is entertaining until you see the toll it takes on Amelia and Essie Davis offers up a ballsy and convincing role of a mother trying her best against insurmountable odds. Seeing her come apart at the seams is both believable and terrifying since she has shown the viewer how much she really loves her child. Davis’ performance is the stuff you rarely see in horror; a motherly character much like Dee Wallace’s role in CUJO who struggles to do what is right in the face of danger and trying to keep her wits to her despite it all.
The effects in THE BABADOOK are equally amazing. Not overly done, never gratuitous—just some glimpses in the shadows, a faint movement in the background, or a subtle pile of clothes hanging in a hallway. Keeping to the less is more motto, director Kent had me pulling my knees up to my chin in during the climax of this film, fearing for the lives of all involved and hoping that the shadowy Babadook doesn’t show his face.
And as this film reaches its quiet resolution and bizarre closure, I found myself wanting to see this film again (something that rarely happens these days with horror films). If you’re looking for one of the most effective horror films of the year, THE BABADOOK is definitely one of them. It’s not your typical horror film and it’s a film that somewhat transcends the genre in terms of acting punch and directorial and story power. Those looking for a cookie cutter thrills can seek out cinematic sharts like ANNABELLE. But if you want to see real terror, THE BABADOOK delivers!
THE 2014-2015 COUNTDOWN!
#5 – THE BABADOOK
#6 – CREEP
#7 – LATE PHASES
#7.5 – WER
#8 – IT FOLLOWS
#9 – SPRING
#10 – EAT
#11 – GOODNIGHT MOMMY
#12 – LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU
#13 – STARRY EYES
#14 – THE BOY
#15 – THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN
#16 – THE HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME
#17 – THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS
#18 – CUB
#19 – POD
#20 – BACKCOUNTRY
#21 – CLOSER TO GOD
#22 – WE ARE STILL HERE
#23 – A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT
#24 – WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD
#25 – THE EDITOR
#26 – DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS DEAD
#27 – PARA ELISA
#28 – THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT
#29 – FROM THE DARK
#30 – EXISTS
#31 – A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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